Design thinking teaching and learning in higher education: Experiences across four universities.


A growing body of literature highlights the increasing demand on college graduates to possess the problem finding, problem framing, and problem-solving skills necessary to address complex real-world challenges. Design thinking (DT) is an iterative, human-centered approach to problem solving that synthesizes what is desirable, equitable, technologically feasible, and sustainable. As universities expand efforts to train students with DT mindsets and skills, we must assess faculty and student DT practices and outcomes to better understand DT course experiences. Understanding how DT is taught and experienced within higher education can help schools promote student learning and align their training programs with professional, personal, and civic needs. In this study, surveys were completed by 19 faculty and 196 students from 23 courses at four universities. DT teaching and learning was characterized by three DT practices and five outcomes. Statistically significant differences were found by discipline of study and student type (i.e., graduate vs undergraduate), but not by gender or race/ethnicity. These results can be used to inform the development of classroom-based DT teaching and learning strategies across higher education institutions and disciplines.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

McLaughlin, Jacqueline E, Elizabeth Chen, Danielle Lake, Wen Guo, Emily Rose Skywark, Aria Chernik and Tsailu Liu (2022). Design thinking teaching and learning in higher education: Experiences across four universities. PloS one, 17(3). p. e0265902. 10.1371/journal.pone.0265902 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Aria Chernik

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Social Science Research Institute

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.